Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage

L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo; Thriller, Italy/ Germany, 1969; D: Dario Argento, S: Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, Eva Renzi, Enrico Maria Salerno, Umberto Raho, Renato Romano, Mario Adorf

Rome. American writer Sam Dalmas plans to return to the US, but one night, while he was walking down the road, he spots a terrible image in an art gallery: a masked maniac who tries to kill Monica, the wife of Albert, the owner of the gallery. He wants to help, but remains stuck at the entrance. Monica survives when the police arrive, but Inspector Morosini suspects Sam. In order to prove his innocence, Sam and his girlfriend Julia start investigating themselves. Through a phone call the police suspects the maniac is Alberto, who dies while they try to arrest him. But Sam discovers the real maniac is actually Monica herself, who is crazy. So the police puts her in a mental institution.

Dario Argento is the pioneer and icon of the thriller/ horror genre of the European cinema whereas his first feature film, "The Bird with the Crystal Plumage", proved he has talent in playing with cliches and creating a creepy mood that even Hitchcock would be proud off. Argento's style and rather raw and unglamorous, so that it seems as if he is a cheap slasher director at times, but his virtues are apparent (the killer is a woman, not a man; scientists analyse the sounds of a phone call in their laboratory). Also, one joke in the film is legendary and became so popular it was copied and imitated a thousand times: it's the sequence where Sam deliciously eats meat at some painter, but then a cat suddenly enters the room. Sam asks the painter why he has so many cats and he replies him that he makes food out of their meat - upon which Sam becomes ill from his meal. Argento's structure has illogical plot holes and doesn't quite fit it with the big picture (the final plot twist is simply unsustainable), but as a whole, this movie works.


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